Zurab Tsereteli is one of the art world’s hidden treasures. While’s he a veritable titan in Russia and Eastern Europe, despite some major pieces gifted around the world he’s not as well known as other Western artists who work on the global scale.
Today we’re taking a look at this figure, as if you’re interested in art you really ought to know about his career, from origins, to his august present day position.
Plenty of people want to become artists, and even start down that path, training at colleges and beginning to create work. What separates successful artists from those who have to give up their dream and go into other professions is not just talent and inspiration, but opportunity. Tsereteli’s early opportunity to get noticed and lay the foundations of a career that would last was a commission from the government.
The Soviet government of the time wanted to bring art into the lives of the people, and commissioned a number of artists to design and create artistic statements in the form of bus shelters! Rather than identical and utilitarian, this project was to produce public artworks that fitted seamlessly into citizens everyday lives. Tsereteli was commissioned to work in the Abkhazia region and created bus stops based on seashell shapes, brightly coloured and decorated with mosaics.
These public artworks are still there today, and are a great reason to tour the region.
This laid a path for Tsereteli as an artist working on a grand scale. As Russia transitioned out of the heartland of the USSR and into a more open nation on the world stage, Tsereteli created and gifted artwork around the world that helped to create cultural links as the political establishment created diplomatic and economic ones.
To the Struggle Against World Terror was presented to the United States as a memorial to the victims of the September 11th attacks. Inspired by the tears the artist himself shed while watching news footage of the attacks. The ten story tall tower houses a suspended silver tear drop, while the base is engraved with the names of those who were killed.
It was a potent symbol of international solidarity at a time of intense upheaval and political tension, and helped to bind together the two great powers of the world.
While he’s still creating work, it makes more sense today to think of Tsereteli as a political and cultural figure than simply an artist. He’s the President of the Russian Academy of Arts, and a UNESCO Ambassador, so he designs exhibitions, allots funding and helps to develop artists both at home in Russia and across the world!